If you’re ever stranded out in the wild, away from civilization in the dead of winter, you’re in trouble.
Not only is it exhausting to trudge through the snow (assuming you don’t have snowshoes, which take time to get used to anyway), but nighttimes can be even deadlier. This means you need to build the warmest shelter possible so you can sleep as long you can, giving you more energy to hike through the snowy terrain the next day and to make it back to safety.
There are countless number of different winter shelters you could build, all depending on what materials you have available, but the warmest one likely is a fire bed shelter.
As long as you have the following materials with you or within your reach, the fire bed is the shelter you should consider constructing:
- Shovel or something to dig with
- Fire-starting materials (matches, magnesium flint striker, lighter, etc.)
- Dry, flammable materials (pine needles, brush, etc)
- Tarp, poncho or blanket (optional)
Begin by finding an area that is flat and protected as much as possible from the cold weather (a flat forest with a thick canopy would do nicely). Start constructing the fire bed several hours before you plan on sleeping in it, since building one is very time-consuming.
Next, clear away the snow (if necessary), and dig a trench six-feet long, almost two-feet wide, and a foot deep into the ground. This is where the shovel comes in handy, but if you don’t have one, you can always improvise and use a knife, a branch or even a rock.
Gather some rocks that are neither too big nor too small. Place these rocks in rows until the bottom of the trench is completely covered. Your next step: Cover the rocks at the bottom of the trench with materials such as leaves, brush and twigs.
Next, light it up! Use whatever fire-starter you have on hand to light the kindling. This fire should burn for several hours, and the rocks will become extremely hot. To make the bed as warm as possible, every last rock inside the bed should be covered with the fire.
As the fire begins to smolder out after a few hours, your next goal is to keep the rocks as warm as possible. Collect dirt and completely cover the rocks. Yes, it’s winter, so yes, the ground will be frozen and hard, but with hard work and a knife or shovel the dirt should come loose. Once the hot rocks are completely covered by the earth, the dirt itself should become warm in a half hour to an hour. As the dirt becomes warm, you can gather brush or pine needles to place over the dirt and make a bed.
For the final step, you’ll need to make a cover for yourself. You can lay sticks across the top of the trench and then cover those with branches and pine needles, or even more efficiently, you can lay a tarp, poncho or blanket over the top of the trench.
Yes, building a fire bed is very time-consuming and will require great effort. But when all is said and done, it will be the warmest overnight winter shelter you can make with minimal materials.
Your goal with a winter shelter is to stay warm during the cold of the winter night to give you the best chance of getting sleep, which will in turn save up as much of your energy as possible for the long trek ahead the next day. For that goal, there is no better option than the fire bed.
Have you ever made a fire bed? What tips would you suggest? Share them in the section below: